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There are over 100 species of ants in Canada, so don’t be surprised if you see them in your garden. Ants are an adaptable insect that cause little damage in the garden and in fact help get rid of many other pesky insects.

Getting rid of ants

Ants are a common home and garden pest. Using ant baits is a highly effective way of eliminating nests. Baits containing boric acid or hydramethylnon will slowly eliminate the colony, and are generally of low toxicity to other animals.

Ant trails are commonly found along baseboards, the edge of carpets along walls, or along the edges and corners inside cabinets. Place bait stations directly in the path of foraging ants, but out of the reach of children and pets.

Chemical sprays and dusts may eliminate colonies. Chemical barrier treatments can be applied to baseboards or door and window frames to prevent outdoor nesting species from foraging for food indoors. Spraying indoors where trails have been observed may cut off food and water sources for an indoor nest. Unfortunately, some chemical-barrier spraying may cause the colony to bud. If the treatment seems to increase the areas ants appear from, try using a bait system of control.

There are numerous domestic class chemical products available. Always check the label to make sure the product is intended for the proper use (indoor or outdoor.)

Preventing ants

Removing access to food and water is the easiest way to avoid all pest problems. Here are some handy tips:

  • Store sugary foods in glass jars with rubber gaskets or in plastic containers with snap-lids.
  • Keep kitchen counter tops clean and sweep or vacuum the floor frequently, especially around pet dishes.
  • Rinse containers before disposing of them in garbage or recycling bins, and empty kitchen garbage containers frequently.
  • Composters should not be located too close to the house.
  • Repair cracks around mouldings and plumbing, in the foundation or along interior and exterior walls.
  • Use two-sided tape around plants stands and fruit trees - Ants will not cross sticky barriers.
  • Flood ant nests repeatedly with a garden hose to encourage ants to move outdoor nests further from the house. Destroy nests by pouring boiling water and detergent on the ant nest.
  • Diatomaceous earth can be placed in the cracks and crevices or around colony locations as a non-chemical means of control (this powder is composed of microscopic fossils that scratch the outer 'skin' of ants, causing the ants to dehydrate and die).
  • Corn meal can be spread around ant colonies. Ants will consume this and then take in more water than normal, causing them to expand and die.

Why you have ants

Ants generally live in large colonies usually located in underground tunnels. Most species will nest outside buildings, and enter them just to forage for food.

They are attracted by sugary foods, oils or greasy residues like peanut butter smears, crumbs, or even the honeydew produced by aphid-infested houseplants.

Ant colonies send out scouts to forage for food. A successful scout leaves a scented trail for other workers to follow back to the food source. This accounts for the orderly parade into your pantry!